Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Miguel Oliveira on Sunday finished second in a rain affected MotoGP Moto3 race on Japan’s Motegi circuit to narrow the points gap to second placed Enea Bastianini to just nine points as the championship goes into its final stages.
Because of the rain, and early morning fog, the Moto3 race, Round 15 in the current world championship series, was delayed by one hour and also shortened to just 13 laps.
Oliveira of Portugal finished second behind Italian Niccolo Antonelli and Jorge Navarro of Spain took the minor podium place. KTM riderIsaac Vinales was in the running for third until the penultimate lap before he crashed out. He quickly got back in the race, losing only one place. KTM rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin of Malaysia finished fifth to give the Austrian manufacturer three riders on the KTM RC 250 GPmachine in the top five. It was Khairuddin’s best result in the current season.
Oliveira was one of a number of riders who picked up a grid place penalty for an infringement during qualifying as race officials continue to clamp down on riders who slow on the racing line in the hope of getting a slipstream tow. He was bumped down from the middle of the front row to the middle of the second row but still got away very well at the start. Pole sitter and KTM rider Romano Fenati of Italy crashed out in the early stages. He went on to finish in the back of the field.
Antonelli and Oliveira hung onto the top two positions from lap three right to the finish and although Oliveira made a spirited bid in the final lap 13 to catch the young Italian, he finally had to settle for second place.
Miguel Oliveira:“The race went pretty well. From the morning in the warm up, in which we rode for 10 minutes, I had a good feeling with the bike in the wet. It was very stable and I liked how I was riding. I felt very comfortable and that I had the chance to do well in the race. Starting from fifth, I knew that we could be up at the front and I tried to ride a smart race, without mistakes. Finishing a second behind Antonelli was the best we could do. It’s a third consecutive podium and some more points, so I must follow this up in Australia. Thanks to the team.”
Oliveira’s teammate Brad Binder was a key player at the front of the field until he too crashed out of a potential third place in the eleventh lap. Karel Hanika, the third of the Red Bull KTM Ajo trio also had a solid race, finishing in eighth place.
Brad Binder: I felt strong on the bike throughout the race, but I was too enthusiastic. I was near the limit and, after two scares at Turn 5, when I opened the throttle I lost the rear and had a highside. On the positive side, I think I was one of the fastest riders on the wet track and next time I will not make the same mistake. I look forward to the race in Australia.”
Karel Hanika:“The first objective but was to keep calm and stay upright, which was basically what I did. The problem is that we started from very far back and it was not easy to overtake at the beginning, thus we lost a lot of time. I think afterwards I found a very good pace, reaching eighth. It’s a good position after the last few races, where we have not been lucky. I hope this is a fresh start and that we can continue in this way in the coming races.”
Japan was the first of three so-called ‘fly-away’ races for the MotoGP Moto3 championship. Riders now travel to Phillip Island in Australia for next weekend’s race. This is followed by the third race in Malaysia before the competition returns for the traditional season’s final at Valencia, Spain.
MotoGP Japan, Twin Ring Motegi Circuit – Round 15
1. Niccolo Antonelli (ITA), Honda, 28 minutes 03.391 seconds
2. Miguel Oliveira (POR), KTM, 28:04.444 min
3. Jorge Navarro (ESP), Honda, 28:11.920
4. Isaac Viñales (ESP), KTM, 28:14.465
5. Zulfahmi Khairuddin (MAL), KTM, 28:16.434
8. Karel Hanika (CZE), KTM, 28:20.954
12. Jakub Kornfeil (CZE), KTM, 28:24.203
16. Gabriel Rodrigo (ARG), KTM, 28:33.379
17. Brad Binder (RSA), KTM, 28:34.110
20. Andrea Migno (ITA), KTM, 28:38.439
23. Philipp Oettl (GER), KTM, 28:52.187
28. Romano Fenati (ITA), KTM, 29:33.055
29. Ana Carrasco (ESP), KTM, 29:55.696
Moto3 Standings after Round 15
1. Kent, 244
2. Bastianini, 188
3. Oliveira, 179
4. Antonelli, 161
5. Fenati, 155
7, B. Binder, 110
9. Viñales, 95
14. Oettl, 57
16. Kornfeil, 52
17. Hanika, 41
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